Shark Week, an annual ratings giant for the Discovery Channel every summer, is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year. From July 22 to 29, shark lovers or haters, and intrigued or fearful fans will once again be glued to their televisions for a chance to get a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating ocean predators.
Shark Week’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years due to its exaggerated storytelling, clever marketing and overall sensationalism. Remember when American swimmer, Michael Phelps "raced" a shark last year? Well, Shark Week 2018 kicks off with martial artist Ronda Rousey facing off with a mako shark - the world's fastest shark.
Before you dive into the 30th year of Shark Week, there are a few things you should know about the overfished mako sharks.
Since a 2008 Ecological Risk Assessment for sharks, scientists have warned that Shortfin Mako Sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to ICCAT Fisheries. Over the last decade, ICCAT has prohibited the retention of several other shark species, yet failed to set even basic limits on makos.
The 2017 assessment of North Atlantic Shortfin Makos was alarming. ICCAT scientists report that:
- Overfishing is occurring on an overfished population (90% chance of both)
- Declines will continue under current catch levels
- Catch must be cut to zero in order to have a 54% chance of rebuilding by 2040
- Banning retention is the most effective immediate step
- Additional bycatch mitigation measures are also needed.
Despite clear scientific advice and growing public support for strict conservation measures, the only new shark agreement resulting from ICCAT 2017, was a phased-in approach to narrow the conditions under which shortfin makos can be landed - a first step toward preventing further population decline but the measure includes numerous exceptions and applies only to the North Atlantic population.
Countries landing North Atlantic Shortfin Makos include (in order of the magnitude for 2011-2016 reported catches) Spain, Morocco, Portugal, US, Japan, and Canada.
Take action for sharks this Shark Week: Add your name to the #Divers4Makos Petition!
Join us and our Shark League partners in urging top fishing nations to prohibit retention of Atlantic mako sharks immediately, as advised by ICCAT scientists, and push for an Atlantic-wide ban at the November 2018 ICCAT meeting.
Photo copyright Cabo Shark Dive